We continue to interview the representatives of private astronautics in Russia. One and a half weeks ago we talked to the CEO of “CosmoCourse” and today we have an interview with Nikolay Dzis-Voynarovskiy, the chief integration officer at “Lin Industrial”.
— Please tell us a few words about yourself and your company.
— Lin Industrial is a Russian startup, developing small satellite launch vehicles, a resident of the Skolkovo Innovation Center since 25 June 2014 and the only private developer of space launch vehicles in Russia.
The company employs skilled engineers and managers, who worked for Khrunichev Space Center and founded Selenokhod — the only Russian team involved in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition for creating a private lunar rover.
The first investors in the company are employees of Wargaming.net, who created a popular computer game World of Tanks.
The company has developed the Moon Seven — a Russian lunar base project utilizing already available launch vehicles, spacecraft and technologies.
Some proposals from the Moon Seven project have been included in the Federal Space Program for 2016–2025.
Other Lin Industrial projects include:
- Taymyr and Aldan microsat launch vehicles, Adler smallsat launch vehicle (all three projects have been approved by experts of the Space Technologies and Telecommunications Cluster of the Skolkovo Innovation Center);
- Zeya — a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) reusable launch vehicle project, with concept developed at the request of European venture capitalists;
- Aniva (project of an LV powered by LNG).
I, Nikolay Dzis-Voynarovskiy am the Chief Integration Officer. Graduate of the Department of Aerophysics and Space Research of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Founder of Selenokhod.
— How and from whom did the idea of creating Lin Industrial emerge? How was the organization created?
— About ten years ago a group of enthusiasts has formed which called itself a “New MosGIRD” — in memory of the “Group for the Study of Reactive Motion” which was created in the USSR under “OSOAVIAKHIM” in 1931. Soviet members of the “GIRD” which were enthusiastically engaged in the development and construction of missiles and engines, in jest deciphered the abbreviation as “a group of engineers working for nothing” as they did not receive wages for their selfless devotion. The enthusiasm was such that GIRD turned into a movement: its’ local branches have appeared in many major cities of the USSR. By the way, the head of the GIRD until its transformation into Reactive Research Institute was Sergei Korolev.
The New MosGIRD from the middle of the two thousandths was also engaged in the creation of an amateur rocket. The work continued for several years until the group ran out of personal funds. Co-founder of Lin Industrial Alexander Ilyin was a member of that group as well as three out of eight fulltime and freelance employees of the startup. And despite the fact that the New MosGIRD was not close to building a rocket at all, during the existence of the project engineers-amateurs could work out a couple of interesting ideas related to ultra-light vehicles. “Of course, we did not think about the market,” says now Ilyin, “And no one was going to start a business. It was a hobby on personal funds. For the creation of serious machinery it was not enough but the developments which were made back then have provided our company with the backlog which allowed to reduce the risks.” Strictly speaking, startuppers took two developments from the past: the engine that runs on hydrogen peroxide and a control system. This system is distinguished by an unprecedented low price for the carriers — just about $ 15 thousand. This is one of the know-how of the development: the system is very simple and not very accurate, but its parameters are enough to deliver cargo to orbit.
Alexander Ilyin also managed to participate in a private Russian space project — Selenokhod. Eight years ago the XPRIZE foundation announced the award of 20 million dollars to the first private company that will be able by 2015 create a lunar rover that will be capable to make a soft landing on the Moon, travel on its’ surface for 500 m and send high-resolution photos to the Earth. Many teams from different countries have participated including the Russian company “Selenokhod”. Unfortunately, in 2013 the company went out of the race due to lack of financing. Disappointed, Ilyin wrote about this in his post on LiveJournal and soon received a letter from a person who proposed him to engage in the creation of an ultra-light rocket. That was his current partner at Lin Industrial Alexey Kaltushkin.
Ilyin had a pretty solid background in space by that time; Kaltushkin who became the CEO of the project was realizing his childhood dream. His family once dissuaded him from enrolling to the Aviation Institute. He became an IT-specialist. Muscovite Alexey Kaltushkin was always interested in space. After working as an IT-specialist in several major companies, including Nokia and Microsoft and also trying to launch his own online store, he decided to create a space startup.
Having studied the market, Kaltushkin and Ilyin realized that in the largest segment of space business, satellite manufacturing and service equipment, there is an extremely high level of competition. Even in Russia, where the government is usually active in the space industry, private companies have appeared: Sputnix and Dauria Aerospace. Then, Kaltushkin and Ilyin got an idea to provide services to the producers of satellites: create a first in Russia private rocket of ultra-light class which can deliver small satellites to the required orbit and in the necessary for the customer time. This is how Lin Industrial, a private project on the development of launch vehicles, was born.
— Were there any difficulties during the registration of the company? What relationship do you have with the state? Do you have any support? If yes, what kind of?
— There were no particular difficulties. The relation with the state is workable. For example, our company has received the status of a resident of the Skolkovo innovation center in June 2014.
— What are benefits does the resident status give?
- Income tax exemption;
- VAT exemption (excluding VAT payable when importing goods to Russia);
- Corporate property tax exemption;
- Reduced insurance fee — 14 %;
- Reimbursement of customs duties and VAT on goods imported for construction and equipment of real estate in Skolkovo or necessary for research activity in Skolkovo.
In August 2015 the space technologies and telecommunications cluster of the Skolkovo fund gave us a grant of five million rubles (note: around $ 73 thousand) on an equal footing with our investor Sergei Burkatovsky, who invested the same amount.
— If not a secret, what is the structure of the company? Do you have many employees?
— The company is registered as a legal entity — a limited liability company. We have five fulltime employees, about the same number is working freelance and we also get help from our partners.
— How one can get a job at your company? What education is required?
— We post jobs and requirements for the candidates here. There are no specific educational requirements — it depends on the vacancy. However, currently we do not need any specialists. Nevertheless, many people want to work for us and regularly send their résumé.
— Who are your potential clients? Do you have only Russian orders or there are also foreign?
— We have signed letters of intent with Sputnix — the company that was first to launch a private Russian satellite. And also with Quazar Space — a Russian startup that plans to manufacture nanosatellites in order to test in space radiation-protected electronics. There are several contracts like this in the process of signing.
At first, we focus on the Russian market and we hope to break-even in two and a half years at a pace of four launches a year. Then we might think about the conquest of other countries markets. There is a need for launching small space satellites in the majority of both developed and developing countries.
— What projects are you currently working on? What are the largest and most interesting contracts?
— We are now fully focused on the development of the microsat launch vehicle Taymyr. More about it can be read on our website.
— How the space community met the “Moon Seven”? Perhaps you received any implementation proposals?
— Moon Seven has gained interest of the society, press, officials and engineers of the space industry. We have repeatedly talked about our ideas with professionals of various levels. We had the last place for presenting the story about the program on the XL Academic Space Conference dedicated to the memory of academician S. P. Korolev which are held by the Bauman Moscow State Technical University.
Some ideas from the Moon Seven we later discovered in the Federal Space Program for the 2016–2025 years — it is aimed at the study of the Moon without the need for the creation of a super-heavy launch vehicle.
The Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences has approached us, as the developers of the lunar program, for help with the Moon-2015 experiment. More about the experiment is here and here.
— Whose components will be used for the microsat launch vehicles: Taymyr, Aniva, Aldan and in the smallsat launch vehicle Adler? What is the difference between a microsat and a smallsat launch vehicle?
Microsat launch vehicle delivers to the low Earth orbit up to 180 kg and the smallsat launch vehicle — up to five tons (specifically Adler — up to 700 kg).
— For whom were designed Zeya and Aniva?
— Zeya is developed for an investor from the Western Europe. Aniva is developed for the Russian A. M. Isayev Chemical Engineering Design Bureau.
— Could you tell us about Vyuga, the aerospace system? Are there any analogues in the world? If there is, why Vuyga is better?
— More about Vyuga can be read on our website. The section will be soon significantly extended. The system gained interested of the businessmen that suppose that the Vyuga aerodrome can be placed in the Moscow Oblast.
There are lots of competitors. A partial list can be found here.
The main advantages of our aerospace system:
- Full reusability;
- Use of Il-76 as a carrier aircraft;
- Ability to launch into a wide range of orbital inclinations;
- Environmental safety;
- Mobility — the capability to launch spacecraft from the countries of customers.
— What problems arose in the process?
— It is difficult to create rockets in general. In addition to the intellectual difficulties associated with the development, the main production problem is to find reliable contractors for the production of various components of the rocket, which would work on time, follow the product requirements document (PRD) and at reasonable rates.
— Do you have investors? How did you promote (advertise) yourself?
— In December 2014 the company found its first private investor: the Vice-President of Wargaming.net Vyacheslav Makarov. Then, the founder of Wargaming.net and the creator of the computer game World of Tanks Sergei Burkatovsky invested in the company.
We promoted ourselves in the usual way: posted information about us on the website, in social networks, in the press, spoke at various conferences and events for startups.
— Do you consider space debris a serious problem? How do you solve the problem of space pollution at your company? Maybe you switch to reusable stages?
— Space debris is, of course, a serious problem. But its’ resolution rests largely on the shoulders of the satellites creators. Our third stage of the rocket will go into the low-Earth orbit, which it will descend from after some time and will burn in the atmosphere.
— The components of your rockets are domestic or foreign? If there are foreign components, what is the percentage? Is it possible to completely give up foreign components?
— Before the rocket is not brought to the production it is meaningless to talk about the exact percentage of domestic and foreign components. We can say that we predominantly try to use domestic materials and parts, produce a lot on our own and the percentage of domestic components will be large.
— What companies do you cooperate with, perhaps they are also private? Only Russian or also foreign? Perhaps you interact, share experiences or only fierce competition?
— The list of partners of the company with whom we actively cooperate:
— We monitor the progress of foreign competitors and communicate with foreign and Russian private space companies.
— Do you cooperate with institutes and universities? Perhaps, you give lectures or take interns?
— We cooperate on different issues with the Moscow Aviation Institute, Moscow State University and Bauman Moscow State Technical University, and from time to time give lectures to students.
— Do you like your job?
— Yes :).
— What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to change or enlarge your field of work?
— All our future plans are related to the expansion of humanity into space :).
Lin Industrial’s successes can be followed in their official group in VK, and we will continue to publish articles about the private astronautics in Russia.